The Segerstrom Museum: A Love Letter to Ford and Shelby

Ted and Rae Segerstrom opened their car museum, The Shelby Experience, in late October of 2021. Located in the city of Irvine, California. The two-storied building features rooms full of Shelby American and Ford Motor Company history. Brimming with Cobras and Mustangs, the facility transports you back to the sixties and seventies to celebrate some of the best cars of those eras. In short, The Segerstrom’s Shelby Experience is a love letter to both Ford and Carroll Shelby.

TED AND RAE SEGERSTROM GREW UP AS MASONS

The couple grew up together as young children, raised in the Masonic traditions of their forefathers and foremothers. “We’re both from a Masonic background,” says Ted, whose father “and ancestors, were all Masons.” His wife Rae, describes her childhood as a member of the Job’s Daughters, as she followed her family’s traditions, “My grandfathers were Masons, and my uncles were Masons.”

Ted and Rae Segerstrom’s love of charity and cars has led them to open The Shelby Experience, a celebration of Ford and Shelby.

The Masons have a serious focus on charity, as Ted describes that “after becoming a Mason, you can go up to different organizations: there’s Scooters’ Light, Work Light, and Shriners. First, you have to be a Mason before you become a Shriner.” “A 3rd degree mason you can move to Scottish Rite and/or York Rite to become a 32nd degree mason and finally a Shriner”, says Rae.

“The Shriner’s support and sponsor 22 hospitals in the United States, one in Canada, [and] one in Mexico for kids with cleft lips, bad burns, [and] spinal cord [injuries].” The medical care is “free to the family, so our dedication as a Mason and a Shriner [are supporting those causes]” explains Ted.

Ted and Rae belong to the Anaheim Shiner’s group, “We sponsor the [hospital] in Pasadena—Shriners’ Medical Center for Kids up there. This is going to be a great opportunity to fund that because we bring kid’s from around the world—free of charge,” explains Ted.

Ted got the car bug when he was 16 years old. He got a hand-me-down 1966 Mustang from his older sister. Owning a Ford was a little surprising since the farm that he grew up on, was filled with bow-tie emblemed trucks from Chevrolet. Regardless, it was his daily driver, and it started his love with Mustangs. He sold that car, upgrading to a one-year-old, used, 1972 Ford Mustang Mach 1—one of the hottest cars on the street at the time.

Living in Irvine, located to south of Los Angeles, Ted says, “We grew up in the shadow of Shelby… We always had that dream of finding that Cobra in a barn somewhere—you know, with six miles on it.” He recalls that most of his friends also drove Mustangs. “One summer, we rebuilt three engines—all for Mustangs.” That love for Ford and Shelby would only grow as time went on, as he explains, “With Carroll’s lineage right there, we were still living it in some way.”

The Segerstrom’s have amassed a 90 plus car collection, filled with rare and unique Shelby’s and Ford Mustangs.

Rae developed her love for automobiles through moments of working on her car with her father. “My dad felt that if I was going to drive a car, I had to know something about it, and he felt that way about my brother too.” Her father’s desire to teach his children about how to maintain vehicles led to early days underneath the hood of a car. Her parents bought both her and her brother’s first cars, a Ford Falcon for him and a Mercury Comet for her, and as she remembers fondly, “My dad helped us rebuild the engine on them and he made me change my tires and change my oil and all of that kind of stuff, so I enjoyed working out there in the garage with my dad.”

LOVE & SHELBY

After high school, the young lovers separated and went their separate ways. They both married different people and started families. Ted continued with his love of Mustangs. He bought his first Shelby Mustang, a 1967 GT500 in Dark Moss Green, in the 1980s, and it was followed by a second, a 1968 GT500 King of the Road (KR) some years later.

Decades later, Ted and Rae would be reunited again. After a whirlwind romance, they married in 2004. Their new relationship had the love of cars as one of its central tenants.

One of the first things they did after their marriage, was to buy a Shelby Cobra from Shelby American.

The Cobra was chassis #1002, and it was among the last run of Shelby Cobras that the company would make—one of the exclusive 1000 series. Describing the Cobra, Ted recalled that “It was a special day. Gary Patterson, at that time, was the Vice President [of Shelby American]. He let us know that they were coming out with the final series.”

Patterson told the Segerstroms that the car had already been sold, but it was unfinished and was still just a body; however, the vehicle’s owner had already put the car on eBay. They ended up buying the car on the auction site, and then changing the vehicle’s ownership paperwork with Shelby American. The car was now theirs to design, and they changed the vehicle’s build sheet to the specifications of their liking.

While the Cobra was being built, Carroll Shelby, one weekend, happened to be holding a signing event at his facility, in Nevada. The couple, who were there in attendance at the event, approached him, asking if he would sign their car which was still just a bare aluminum chassis. Many people asked Carroll to sign their glove compartment box or their car’s dashboard, but the Segerstrom’s had another idea: they asked Carroll to sign the nose of their unfinished chassis. “He hadn’t signed the nose of a Cobra in like 40 years, so it was really special,” says Ted. “The hard part—the really hard part, was keeping it so that the name doesn’t get washed off. Well, you can’t clean the car, you can’t drive it, you can’t go outside with it because you don’t want it to fade,” he explains. Rae points out that “when Carroll signed it, it was just a rolling chassis.” A signature was almost like a Faustian bargain as they traded a possible drivable vehicle for an exclusive and historically important signature.

Carroll Shelby signed the nose of this rare 1000 series Cobra. The two lines in signature denote his heart and kidney transplants.

The Segerstroms also asked Carroll to sign the inside panel of the driver-side door. As Carroll bent down, he ended up hurting his back. This was something that he would never let the Segerstrom’s forget, “He remembered us, and every time he saw us, he was like ‘You’re the people who I signed the door and I hurt my back.’ He brought it up every time—We would have nice conversations after that, but that was always the first thing that he mentioned,” laughs Rae.

As the couple got deeper into the Shelby community, they had many opportunities to see the automotive legend. Ted describes Carroll Shelby as someone whose “range of things that he did in his life, [are] history-making and personal. From his time in WWII to the day up until his death… He only made roughly, in four years of production, about 1400+ Shelby’s, but he was involved in much—much more than that. When he got ill and he got his heart transplant, that’s when he decided, [after] seeing all those little kids that had heart issues—that is when he came up with the idea to make his foundation. Then later, he had a kidney transplant that he got from one of his kids. If you look at his signature, he [was] very proud of his signature— The arch and those two lines, one was for his heart and the other was for his kidney. He was very—very proud of that.”

Hanging with the great, Ted says that they treated Carroll just like a common man, not peppering him with questions but instead just letting him be himself.” Describing those conversations, Ted says, “If you sit down with the man, he’ll tell you things. We went down to his 85th birthday out there in Terlingua, Texas. They had a big birthday [party] down there for him. [We] actually, got him off to the side, at a bar in a hotel, and had a few minutes to talk to him. You give a man his respect but you also don’t hound on him. People like to let their hair down and be themselves.”

“Most of the time we saw him, he was very tame, but his health was going down a little bit. He had a kick in the pants sense of humor. You had to be around him to catch some of that Texas draw that he had. He had his moments, but he was a fun-loving guy. He was a Good ole boy. He was fun to be around. He enjoyed having the kids around. If you show anybody simple respect, you’re going to get it back. He hated his birthday parties. That first one, he hated it. He didn’t want the attention,” said Ted.

A GROWING COLLECTION 

As their car collection grew, the featured vehicles became the 1968 Shelby GT500 King of the Road (KR). A one-year Shelby Mustang variant that had more amenities than the standard GT500s.

“The KR pretty much had all the legroom and niceties,” exclaims Ted, who says that “the tilt steering wheel was a T-Bird function and additional to the sequential lighting which is a T-Bird function that [the KR] borrowed.”

This beautiful display, is arranged with Mustangs from sequential years, ranging from 1966-1969.

Convertible KR’s are Ted’s favorite variant. After sending his first KR to the restoration shop, he was surprised when they called him back telling him that his car was a 1 of 1, based on its color and interior combinations. That was great news in one sense, but he really wanted a car that he could drive. He bought another KR that they found in West Virginia, and they sent that vehicle to the same repair facility. Meanwhile, another person in Pahrump, Nevada, found a different KR, and they sent that vehicle to that same restoration shop that the Segerstrom’s had employed. When the two KR’s were stripped for the restoration process to begin, the shop discovered that they were twins—having sequential Ford VIN numbers and sequential Shelby ID numbers—the two were manufactured on the assembly line one after the other. The Segerstrom’s ended up buying that second KR, and now the two sit side-by-side in their collection.

The Segerstrom’s continued acquiring cars, and as their collection grew, they wanted to show it off and invite the public in; however, the building that their cars were stored within was more of a warehouse storage facility—it wasn’t built for large groups of people.

“[I]t was a moving storage warehouse—just a box,” says Ted, who described that “The city wasn’t real happy having a lot of people in there.” 

Ted and Rae tried having a party back in 2006, but the warehouse didn’t lend itself to a party atmosphere. With the housing market booming and developers looking to convert business districts into homes, they sold the building to a developer and started searching for a new location.

A CAR MUSEUM FOR THE PUBLIC 

The Segerstroms found their new home, one building down from Superformance on Whatney, a street that is right in the heart of Irvine’s Industrial District. A car-centric location, they are also located within walking distance to The Mercedes-Benz Classic Center, Mercedes Benz’s US classic car restoration hub.

Gary Patterson, Shelby American President and Irvine’s Mayor, Farrah N. Khan, were on hand to help cut the ribbon at the Museum’s grand opening.

The new building needed to be converted from its previous configuration. The couple designed the interior with the express intention of having the venue be open to the public so that people could view their car collection as well as being a place for people, business, and families to hold events—including weddings.

The finished building has a formidable presence and aesthetic. A flowing staircase connects the bottom floor to the top with a mezzanine. The staircase could be used for a bride to walk down to the wedding being held on the lower floor explained Rae. There are rooms upstairs that are made specifically for a bride and her maids and there is a separate room for the groomsman and his best men. The facility has space for hundreds of people, a stage, a band, and the outdoor patio can fit yet even more people.

The cars are separated into three different wings. The bottom floor has two wings, the first that the main doors enter into is full of convertible KR’s nicknamed “Ragtop Alley.” Most are some of the rarest 1968 KR’s in existence. There were only 5 yellow 1968 GT500KRs made, and they are all members of the alley. On the wall, there is a beautiful four-story car display that is ordered, from the earliest year to the latest, with Mustangs from the years 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969 displayed in order, starting at bottom.

This polished Cobra is the star of the Shelby wing. It sits on a reflective display.

The second wing on the bottom level is the main Shelby room, with historic Cobras being front and center. They fill your eyesight when you enter. A completely polished silver Cobra, the 50th anniversary, is featured—front and center—as the room’s centerpiece on a blue ringed reflective display. To its right is the Cobra that Ted and Rae bought after their wedding, the Shelby with Carroll’s iconic signature on its bare aluminum nose. On the perimeter of the room, there are race-prepped Cobras which were run in multiple Shelby racing classes, and parked on the back wall is a fleet of Hertz Shelby GT350’s in a variety of colors—the famed Rent-A-Racers.

The proceeds of the Museum, will go to three charities: the Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena, CA; The Carroll Shelby Foundation; and the Kathy Ireland Foundation, which supports the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. 

The upper level is filled with a colorful array of 1969-2015 Ford and Shelby vehicles. A burgundy 1969 Boss 429, is flanked by multiple 1970s GT350s and GT500s. A lone Shelby Dodge Omni is on loan to the collection, it sits next to 2005 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500’s. Displayed on the walls and in the walkways are Neon signs, lamps, and historic gasoline service station pumps. The remnants of a time long by of the golden age of the American automotive story. 

Rae’s favorite car sits on a display outside of her office on the second floor, a 1956 Thunderbird that she loves and affectionately calls her baby. She mourns the fact that since it is in the museum, she can no longer drive it, but with its unified chassis with molded fenders or bumpers, it is safe on its display. Next to the Thunderbird sits Ted’s World War II Jeep. This particular Jeep was manufactured by Ford during the wartime manufacturing effort, and the car has Ford logos everywhere—even on its tires and bolts.

America’s Got Talent contestant, Sofie Dossi, performed for the crowd at the grand opening.

“We are hoping to get together with the schools so they can do field trip’s here, that way they can learn some history with the cars and the oil pumps and the neon signs,” says Rae, “So it’s come and enjoy, learn something, have fun—all of that.”

CHARITY

The real reason for the museum is charity. Their masonic background preached charity and giving back to your community. 

Ted explains, “The thing again, was what to do with them all, and this facility and our goal was the best thing that we could come up with—this is giving back to the public. My family grew up with our real roots in the dirt as farmers, and we were able to develop my great grandfather’s land. He had 2200 acres that he farmed Lima Beans in. The family has become successful but it relied on the public so it was always instilled in us to give back in some way. And this is our way to give back. This is for the public, it’s not for us.”

Shelby American President Gary Patterson says of the Segerstrom’s:

“In ‘02, Ted had [a] Shelby GT500, and he was trying to get it restored, and I was able to help them with that and make sure that they got a car that was done right. Their original thought was that we could get it done at Shelby, but that isn’t really our business. I helped them with that, and then I helped them with numerous other vehicles. When Ted began collecting Shelby’s seriously, we had some of the very first of the Cobra-type vehicles—CSX 4000 was really one of the first of the continuation cars, that started as a 427—blue with white stripes. We used it since late ’95 through early ’96 [as a development car], and Ted ended up buying that car. It was basically the company mule. Then he bought CSX 5000, which was the Series 1 mule. Then he bought 6000, which was the first of the next-generation 427’s—then he bought 7000—then he bought 8000. So he had a lot of those [first of the series cars], and he got one of the first prototype Shelby Challenge cars. They’ve just been outstanding. We’ve always just been good friends—good people. Ted would be the first to tell you that he was certainly fortunate in his family, owning a lot of the land in Orange County when it was farming—and it’s not farming anymore. The cool thing is that Ted and Rae have always been about giving back. Instead of doing foolish things with their money, they live modestly—relatively speaking. They did this event center in such a way that they want people to come and enjoy the cars and the collection, but also to raise money for charity, so the money that comes in the event center, above and beyond expenses, goes to charity… They really give back. It’s not about them being greedy or trying to find out how to make any more dollars.”

The upper level is filled with a colorful array of GT500s and GT350s.

As Ted points out, “doing the restorations and displaying them, we don’t make any money off of them, just like this operation here, all the net proceeds are going to charity.”

Ticket sales will go to three charities: the Shriners for Children Medical Center in Pasadena, CA; The Carroll Shelby Foundation; and the Kathy Ireland Foundation, which supports the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. 

These models were on hand at the grand opening, showing off the cars and the new museum.

THE NEW 2022 SHELBY GT500 KING OF THE ROAD

Shelby American decided to announce their new model at the Segerstrom Shelby Experience. A fitting location as it is home to many of the rarest 1968 GT500 King of the Road (KR) Mustangs.

Speaking about the new car, we spoke to Gary Patterson, Shelby American’s president.

“The company [Shelby American] really rides largely on enthusiasts,” says Patterson, “Its’ not just a job for me… or for many of the key people in the company—it’s a passion that we have, and we’re running a car company with car people.”

The new GT500 King of the Road has 900 plus horsepower, a new hood, custom wheels, and suspension changes.

“As enthusiasts, we looked at the iconic brands and then brands within the brand, and the KR clearly came to the surface as a key vehicle in the history of the company. When they wanted to make the regular GT500, they put a bigger hammer under the hood just like the 427 Cobra was a bigger hammer under the hood for a Cobra. The big-block ’67 was a bigger hammer for the Mustang. When Carroll licensed the name to Ford for ’68. They had a base 428 engine in it, and they wanted a little bit more. With the connection with Bob Tasca who used the Ford parts book, he created the engine basically using their own over-the-counter parts, which became the Cobra Jet. When the 428 Cobra Jet debuted in the spring of ‘68, they put that in the Shelby GT500 and they called it the King of the Road. And they did it because it was the next step—the next evolution, it was more power, even though it wasn’t rated that way because of insurance rates… the reality is that it made more power and probably in excess of 400 horsepower” described Patterson.

The history of the “King of the Road” name, explains Patterson is that “[Shelby] stole the name from General Motors who was planning to use the name for the Camaro. They, [GM], hadn’t locked up the nameplate yet, and [Carroll] went to his attorneys, because he could do things quickly, and he had them lock down the name.”

For the new GT500, he says that “[W]e wanted to truly do something special at the end of the model run, we decided that the KR would be the ideal nameplate and we needed to make it truly—truly special and very—very limited. So we’re only going to do 60 in the US, for each of the model years of ‘20, ‘21, ’22.”

People will “purchase [their GT500] through a Ford dealership, and bring it to us, and sixty people, per model year, are going to be able to convert their car to a KR,” (Patterson).

Only 60 cars will be built for each model year from 2020-2022.

Following the theme of making the GT500 King of the Road bigger and better than the stock car, they added horsepower, body changes, and suspension changes. “We talked about it as a theme ‘what does this car need to be to truly justify the nameplate King of the Road?’ And so, horsepower plays a piece of that and one of the ways to do that is with an aftermarket supercharger. We went to our partner, Whipple, who does the superchargers for our current Super Snake, and we said what can you do with the GT500, and they came out with this blower, but we needed to have it done in such a way where it was compliant and ran on pump gas,” says Patterson, the new supercharger is “totally emissions complaint,” that “it’s really a neat package.” 

The horsepower has not been finalized yet, “but based on 93 octane we know we’re going to be north of 900 [horsepower]. There are a lot of people out there right now making 1000, but they’re not emissions compliant” (Patterson).

The KR’s body has a new hood. “We wanted to do this on a vehicle that could remain compliant and also have a hood that is unique,” said Patterson who described the new hood as: 

“A dry carbon hood, similar to the Signature Edition [GT500] hood that we already did, but yet a slightly new design. It has not only the big aerodynamic assist with the heat and the air extraction that Ford did on the center, but it has the side vents that extract even more air and more heat, and we got the information from the guys at Ford engineering, who told us where and how much [to alter the hood design and added vents], and we designed it to that point, but we got their input first.”

He says that the more aerodynamic hood meant that the rear wing was affected, “You have to add some wing in the back to make sure the back is balanced with the extra downforce that you get in the front. If you look at airflow, the center vents and two side events, exhaust a lot of air. So, air comes in through the nose, but where does it go? It goes down and out the bottom of the car which creates lift and instability.”

Aerodynamic changes at the front meant that the rear wing had to be adapted to provide more downforce.

Patterson says that “If you have a Carbon Fiber Track Pack car, we leave that wing on,” but if you had a standard GT500 with then “we add a little bit of wing to [the base model’s “swing”] with our own design.”

The KR’s wheels will also be unique. Harking back to Shelby’s recent history of the 2007-2009 GT500 and ’07-08 GT500 KR, the new wheels are a modern iteration of the wheels that were equipped on those vehicles. “[They] had a very distinct look,” claims Patterson, “We’ve recreated that with a new flavor for ’20-’22. So it’s really a tribute back to the KRs that we’ve done with a modern twist.” 

Other changes are “MagneRide programming and suspension enhancements and drop the ride height slightly… and a very unique seat design, which kind of a snakeskin look to it and the KR logos are a very clear departure from a normal GT500 if there is such a thing” (Patterson).

The year 2022 is both the 55th Anniversary of the GT500 and the 60th-anniversary of Shelby American. All 2022 Shelby cars or trucks will come with a 60th-anniversary badge. This badge will set any 2022 GT500 KR apart from the other 2020, 2021 models.

The 2020-2022 Shelby GT500KR package starts at $54,995.00 plus the price of the car.

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